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Pros and Cons of a Concrete Paver Driveway

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Pros and Cons of a Concrete Paver Driveway
Photo courtesy Jamiriquai @ flickr/Creative Commons
Concrete pavers are a popular choice for driveways, sidewalks, patios and pool surrounds. The pavers are manufactured to high standards, creating a strong product that can actually create a stronger driveway than poured concrete (see Pros and Cons of a Concrete Driveway). Concrete pavers often carry a lifetime warranty for integrity.

Concrete pavers are available in a variety of shapes, styles, patterns and colors, giving the homeowner plenty of choices to create a unique driveway that complements their house and landscape. Pavers used for driveways are usually interlocking, which both speeds the installation and strengthens the surface. Another benefit of concrete pavers is that individual pavers can be removed and replaced, if necessary.

Unlike poured concrete and asphalt driveways (see Pros and Cons of an Asphalt Driveway), concrete paver driveways do not require a curing period. Once installed, they are ready to use. They also offer more traction when wet than poured concrete.

Finally, because they are small and easy to handle, and don't require heavy equipment to install, concrete pavers are a great material for a DIY driveway. It may take some time, but the savings can be significant over paying someone else to install your driveway. Even if you choose to hire someone else to install a driveway, make sure they leave you with a supply of extra pavers, as you will almost certainly be able to handle small repair and replacement jobs yourself.

What Are Concrete Pavers?

Though they are often referred to as "cement pavers," that term is a bit misleading. Cement (usually Portland cement) is a primary ingredient in concrete, but it is not the only one (sand, aggregate and water are also needed). Pavers can be solid, but they can also be open, like those in the photo. The latter style is particularly permeable, but it also can allow weeds to grow through.

How To Maintain Concrete Pavers

Concrete paver driveways require very little maintenance. An occasional sweeping or hose rinsing will keep them clean enough. If weeds find their way through the surface, just remove them as soon as they appear. Stains can usually be removed using this technique, but you should check with the manufacturer for additional tips.

Should tree roots, frost heave or settling damage a section of the driveway, it is easy to remove the affected pavers, fix the underlying problem, and put the driveway back together.

How Long Will a Concrete Paver Driveway Last?

A properly installed and maintained concrete paver driveway can be expected to last 25 to 50 years.

What Does a Concrete Paver Driveway Cost?

Costs for a concrete paver driveway can vary significantly. A professionally installed job using top quality pavers can run as high as $30 to $40 per square foot. The pavers themselves will run $3 to $10, depending on size and style. That difference between the pro job and the paver cost can give you some idea of how much you could save doing the work yourself.

How Is a Concrete Paver Driveway Installed?

The first step in installing concrete pavers is to excavate the grass and loose soil. You want to set the driveway over solid ground.

Next, like any good driveway surfacing material, concrete pavers perform best when installed over a well-prepared base. In this case, compacted sand is usually installed over gravel or paver base. A basic driveway will have 1 in. of sand over 4 to 6 in. of gravel, but for driveways that need to handle heavy vehicles, a base of 10 to 12 in. is recommended. Make sure that the base is graded to facilitate water runoff.

After adding some edging to guide the installation, and it is time to start laying pavers. If necessary along the sides, use a masonry saw to cut pavers.

When the pavers have all been installed, use a plate compactor to set them into the sand base. Sweep some sand over the surface to fill joints and compact. Add more sand, as necessary, followed by the compactor until the joints are filled.

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